Inspired by constituent input, my office has been advocating for Virginia’s care workers since early this past summer; When we keep providers healthy and financially stable, we’re also protecting the more at-risk Virginians they serve.
The 2020 Special Session presented an opportunity to not only speak up for these essential workers, but to create positive policy change from inside the General Assembly, as well.
As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, my primary responsibility in the General Assembly during Special Session was leading revisions to the state budget. Here are some ways in which the updated budget supports those caring for our most vulnerable Virginians during this pandemic:
- Our budget includes overtime pay for home care workers – a key legislative priority for that workforce.
- We are directing $72 million in federal CARES Act funding to home care workers as hazard pay: additional compensation for work performed under hazardous conditions. (ICYMI: I asked the Governor to do this in July).
- We are exempting live-in caretakers from the “electronic visit verification” system of logging on-the-job hours. For example, someone who lives with a disabled relative and cares for them as a full-time job will not be forced to “clock in” and “clock out” in order to receive reimbursement.
- Our budget fulfills an urgent request from the industry that provides medical equipment for Virginians with disabilities, chronic or long-term health needs (e.g. wheelchairs, blood sugar monitors, oxygen equipment, home hospital beds). Too often, insurers pay much less than this medical equipment actually costs. Now, Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) will have to reimburse at least 90% of the cost of durable medical equipment.
- Providers supporting Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities – like group homes, residential assistance, and group day programs – will receive higher Medicaid reimbursement rates starting in January 2021. Many day support providers have been unable to continue in-person services during the pandemic due to safety concerns. Our budget grants them immediate retainer payments to keep their doors open and employees on payroll. We will also now allow some of these day support services to be provided virtually. Finally, our budget restores 250 new Medicaid waiver slots in fiscal year 2022, helping more Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive the services they need.
- Our budget restores a Medicaid rate increase for private-duty and skilled nursing and $6.9 million for Medicaid nursing facilities.
- Nursing homes will continue to receive an additional $20 per patient, per day to stabilize an industry under extreme stress.
This is in addition to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has been made available to home care workers since we launched the Care Safe initiative this past summer. As you may remember, in July and August the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) distributed 120,000 cloth masks to Virginia home care workers. In September, home care agencies were able to begin ordering PPE including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer through DMAS.
As a constituent, this effort – and all the results – are YOURS. So, let me know: Will any of these changes help you or a loved one? What should we work on next as part of this initiative? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.